Fat White Family Review- O2 Forum- 15/05/2019.

 

Been looking forward to the relaunch of the” Fat White Family” and their third album “Serfs Up”. Like most people a little intrigued to see how it would work out in the live setting.

Support were provided by two bands who I have reviewed before. Hitting the stage at 7.30 were “Pregoblin” who are really entertaining and have a few good crowd rousing songs. The two vocalists despite the early hour and the fairly sparse crowd, got into the performance and duetted throughout the set. The question that came to mind is are they or are they not a couple? It was still unclear after 30 minutes to be honest.

Like all the bands on offer this evening the common link is the music scene in Brixton. Second support was provided by “Black Country, New Road” one of the next generation of Brixton muso’s. Think Lou Reed (Velvet Underground) with a bit of jazz and discordant saxophone and violin and you are getting there. Since I saw them last time there sound is thicker, additional guitar has been added and some of the previous spoken vocals have been speeded up i.e. singing. In reality it was probably necessary to get them a wider appeal from the off.

The O2 forum was packed and sweaty and once I had left the front to use the toilets there was no getting back so I viewed FWF from a distance. The set started with a call to prayer, underlying the spirituality that is evident in the new album and in some of the symbolism enacted by Lias on stage.

I feel that they are also possibly going for their best shot currently at wider fame, as sleeping on peoples sofas and starving has probably lost its rock and roll glamour by now. Starting way back in 2011 they took a couple of years out for solo projects recently but are back more solid in the live setting than ever. Inevitably a bit of their original raw appeal has been softened over the years but Lias still spent 50% of his time in various shapes being thrown about in the audience.

The set list below was clever. They managed to work in half the new album but pandering to the audiences desire for the classics. Now with two synth players the sound is inevitably fuller and there are lots of electronic drum rhythms punctuating the new songs. As the set started I thought they may stick to the more exuberant new material but they bravely shared a few songs that are in many ways light years away from songs like “Touch the Leather “and “I am Mark. E.Smith”. But I would argue you still know it’s them. The new album is clearly influenced by the various band member’s solo projects and ideas they tried out in their other incarnations. If you haven’t already got acquainted look up “Moonlandingz” as well as “Insecure Men” and “Warmduscher”.

As mentioned earlier they are having fun with spirituality in their current persona’s and Lias was sporting what originally looked like a shaved head but actually turned out to be closer to a cross between Bill Bailey and a monk. Makes perfect sense.

They played for about 75 minutes working in a couple of songs from the debut album and finishing with “Bomb Disneyland”. I still think they are very much in the running for my band of this particular decade and I have really enjoyed the way they have challenged themselves.

A reviewer in another column did point out that they seem to have replaced heroin chic with slightly chubby success. I don’t think you can knock them enjoying any success they might attract but perhaps the next phase is regular exercise and a healthy balanced diet. But for us musical voyeurs clearly not so much fun in that.

 

Set list courtesy of setlistfm.com

When I Leave

Tinfoil Deathstar

I Am Mark E. Smith

Fringe Runner

Goodbye Goebbels

Bobby’s Boyfriend

Hits Hits Hits

Oh Sebastian

(first time live)

Feet

Touch the Leather

Whitest Boy on the Beach

Cream of the Young

Tastes Good With the Money

(with Baxter Dury)

I Believe in Something Better

Bomb Disneyland

The Horrors – 10th Anniversary of Primary Colours- 9/05/2019

It was the 10th anniversary of “The Horrors” album “Primary Colours”. I have seen “The Horrors” a few times over the years and always felt they were one of those bands that didn’t quite maximise their potential.

They have arrogance and swagger and were arguably bold to move from the post punk gothic DIY of their first album “Strange House” to the dance and synth led “Primary Colours”.

I have a natural predilection for bands that are prepared to break out in a new direction  as its part of my DNA from my teenage years so I’ve always had a soft spot for them.

Support was provided by “Great Swans” who played a 45 minute set of dance/trance. The two “band” members were suitably animated as they fiddled with what appeared to be a collection of extension leads, nobs and switches. Echo’s of “Underworld” in there meanderings.

In a venue like the Royal Albert Hall which was still filling up they had their work cut out to engage the crowd but the energy did break through and the place was definitely a bit warmer as they left the stage.

“The Horrors “came on at 8.55 (on time) and proceeded to plough through “Primary Colours”. Until my ears adjusted the sound was a little difficult but once the band got into their stride it sounded less polished than previous outings but that wasn’t really to the detriment of the performance, as although the album is considered a radical departure you can hear the progression from the first album and its still fairly rock oriented (my view).

Biggest reaction was for the final track “Sea within a Sea” which has the Giorgio Moroder inspired (?) outro which on the album is probably my favourite piece of that particular project.

The band took a mini break and then proceeded to deliver highlights from all of their albums including “Sheena is a Parasite “and “Count in Fives”. This was apparently first time played since 2010.

They finished off with “Still Life“ at around 10.30 and we all parted ways. I got the bus home and reflected on the evening.

Set list courtesy of setlist.fm.

Primary Colours

Mirror’s Image

Three Decades

Who Can Say

Do You Remember

 

New Ice Age

Scarlet Fields

I Only Think of You

I Can’t Control Myself

Primary Colours

Sea Within a Sea

 

Encore:

Machine

Sheena Is a Parasite

(First time since 2010)

Count in Fives

(First time since 2010)

Ghost

Something to Remember Me By

Endless Blue

Still Life

Drenge at Electric Brixton-3/04/2019

I was excited to see “Drenge” after a three year gap. They have been away for a while and the two brothers that were the core of “Drenge” have now grown to a band of four.

This reflects the growing maturity of their music and an evolution into something bigger than the old band.

I had done my research purchasing the new album “Strange Creatures” in advance of last night. Although in some ways not as immediately accessible as the first two albums it is a progression and there are strong threads from their previous work.

On the night they obviously gave the new songs a run out and they all work really well. It is difficult to sometimes work out what is from the back catalogue and what is new.  Songs that worked well were “Strange Creatures” and “Bonfire of the City Boys “(that bass line is awesome and dominates the track). “Autonomy “ which is a sort of cross over track from old to new also hit the spot.

I was hoping not to be disappointed by them being away for so long but they are truly a great rock and roll band. The power and precision of the performance was in your face from start to finish. I would say live the new album feels like their best work. As with most bands the older numbers are not necessarily played with the same love as before or are changed or embellished to better represent the present as against the past.

Good job all round and would be missing them already.

Set List:

  1. Prom Night
  2. Bonfire of the City Boys
  3. Never Awake
  4. Autonomy
  5. Face Like a Skull
  6. Teenage Love
  7. Never See the Signs
  8. The Woods
  9. Backwaters

(Alternate version)

  1. Running Wild
  2. Blood sports
  3. This Dance
  4. People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck
  5. Strange Creatures
  6. Let’s Pretend
  7. Encore:
  8. When I Look Into Your Eyes
  9. We Can Do What We Want

 

Support was originally supposed to be “Wytches” who unfortunately pulled out at the last minute. I spoke to a couple of guys who had come just for “Wytches” so hadn’t heard of “Drenge” before. Which is a shame as I see quite a few similarities between the bands in terms of feel and application to their music.

On the night support was provided by five piece “Valeras” who hail from Reading. Three girls and two guys they are all still in their teens but played some strong rock songs. They are ones to watch and have strong mainstream appeal would be my opinion. I hadn’t researched before viewing so didn’t have any preconceptions. They play on the rock side of musical genres rather than being indie or alternative.

Only comment I would make is that some songs ended abruptly without really reaching any sort of climax. I have seen this before with other bands where it’s almost as if they haven’t quite got the song to a level of maturity where they know how to end it. No doubt they will rework some of this along the way.

They looked like they were enjoying themselves, which is always good and the level of musicianship was sky high for such a young band.

With the right management and a bit of luck these guys will be playing some big stages in the future.

The venue is one I like as it’s never so crowded that you can’t move around and the audience were fairly chilled. Only complaint as no doubt mentioned before is paying £5.50 for a can of Redstripe.

Calva Louise- BBC introducing at The Lexington-7/03/2019.

 

Out at a BBC introducing show at the Lexington. Good intimate venue for those that don’t know it. Supposedly sold out there was a little bit more space than normal so possibly numbers had been restricted.

First band of the evening was “Fuzzy Sun” from Stockport. A very competent band my research suggested they were a little bit progressive /psychedelic. In reality they were channelling 70’s funky basslines with strong melodies over the top. They had a small but loyal following in the crowd, many of whom seemed to know each song intimately.

They have recently supported Blossoms on their national tour so assuming they got some good visibility from that.  They were musically in control of their output and did 30 minutes of good but not for me memorable songs.

Next support were “Feet” from Coventry. Billed as Brit Pop for the current generation on first hearing they had something of “Cabbage” about them. This was probably due to their collective self-confidence and elements of humour dotted about the performance. Songs like “Petty Thieving” and new single “The Weather “being cases in point.

They play songs with varied tempos (sometimes within the song). All the musicians add to what is essentially a traditional rock sound. Drummer and bass provide solid backing, allowing the guitarists to be a bit more experimental with sound. Definitely left me wanting more which is always good.

The sound quality is invariably good at the Lexington which means you get a much better overall audible experience i.e. you can actually hear most of the vocals clearly.

Headliners were “Calva Louise”. First saw these guys a couple of years ago and was impressed then with the tightness of the three band members and there unique sound .I think that still applies,

Called bubble gum punk by some I enjoy them every time I see them and they put a smile on your face. In the interim I’ve seen them a couple more times and they have now released there first album “Rhinoceros”.

They didn’t disappoint on the night. Jess’s voice is spot on and she handles a range of vocals without faltering. Ably backed by the two guys on drums and bass but Jess is the visual draw.  They all look like they are having fun which is quite refreshing and what looks like real genuine chemistry on stage.

The inter song banter is very self deprecating and surely these guys should be bigger than they are. What they need is a major tour support slot to give them that impetus I would say.

Great show and good venue.

Culture Abuse at the Camden Boot Room-30/02/2019.

Got a free entry to see Culture Abuse at the Camden Boot room in Camden stables. I like “Culture Abuse” having seen them a couple of times before but they were being billed as singing a few “Sex Pistols” covers. This in the end did not happen but we certainly got a high energy 40 minute set with people bouncing off the low ceiling and lights whilst others tried to swing from the stage lighting gantry. So pretty full on for those young enough to sneer at serious injury.

The venue only takes about 60 people so when confronted by a queue of about 300 outside I thought my chances of entry were slim. But after having a word with the custodian of the list of people who had registered I miraculously got in. So it was a free concert and to top it off free drinks, either Brew dog or Jack Daniels (assuming it was due to licencing).

“Culture Abuse” certainly bring the energy to a venue like this and as mentioned earlier they rattled through many of the highlights of their two albums. Songs such as “Chinatown” and” Bee Kind to the Bugs” actually sound better live, as the production on some tracks off their albums does blunt the raw edges.

They do have a style of their own tinged with a clear love of 70’s punk and reggae. They play heartfelt songs with danceable beats such as “Calm E”, “Dream On” as well as sing along choruses such as “Turn it Off”. Despite requests there were no cover versions offered (ha, ha!).

On the evening they had support from a band I’ve not come across so far called “High-Vis”.  Just serendipity but I  met two band members outside while I was moaning about the queue. We got chatting and they said although they didn’t like the idea of pigeonholing their music they sounded a bit like “New Order” meets punk. I think at times that was quite accurate, although I did hear a bit of the “Motors “in there somewhere. They clearly had some fans in tow as they got only a slightly less rapturous welcome than the headliners. Played a solid 30 minute set with rock solid musicianship. Songs of modern life and struggle seemed to be the order of the day. Nothing wrong with that I would say.

I had said to the two guys outside that I would check them out if didn’t get in. I’ve seen they are playing support at the Victoria in Dalston so might make a detour for that to hear them again. Great evening in a small evening with added anxiety that might not get in. Makes you feel alive.

Toy at Village Underground-20/02/2019

Took a visit to the Village Underground near Liverpool st station to see “Toy” as they have just launched what is there fourth album. The audience was suitably shoe gazey and “Toy” are one of those bands that I expected great things from a few years ago when I first saw them. I really liked there first two albums and used to play them in the car repeatedly.

They opened there set with a few new songs as far as I could tell form my strategic position near the sound desk (assumed this might be the best sound). In the live setting when they rock out and let’s be honest this band are very much in the tradition of the prog rock bands of the early 70’s they sound a little like Status Quo. Depending on your persuasion that’s obviously good or bad. I just found that on the night they didn’t really elevate their music to any new height that really thrilled me.

I had arrived early as per usual to check out the support. First band called “The Shadracks” consisted of female bassist and drummer and male vocalist/guitarist. I mention this because it’s a bit of a trend it seems. Does it add a different dynamic I don’t know? But on reflection a few of my favourite bassists in current bands do seem to be women. Thinking of “Future of the Left” or “Savages” for example.

Anyway they played multiple short songs in the 2 minute to 2.30 range. Some worked, some needed more work and they genuinely seemed to be trying stuff out. The singer both visually and delivery wise reminded me of Bowie back in his early London Boys days, a bit of a cheeky ,cockney chappie vibe. This comparison might clearly be a bit over the top but interesting all the same. Referring to their Facebook page it looks like their mission is to turn the clock back 40 years. I think they were close to accomplishing that.

The most notable aspect of their set was a cover of “Alternative TV’s” song “Splitting in Two”. It was there last and best song but I am intrigued at the choice. Clearly not random and it prompted me to go back and listen to the original album, which was a pretty random collection of songs 40 years ago.

It has left me wanting to know a bit more so probably did its job.

Second support was “Adrena, Adrena” which is a collaboration of visual artist Daisy Dickinson and drummer E-Da Kazuhisa. I was happy to indulge their musings for 30 minutes and it consisted of some synth rhythms, what has to be regarded as rock solid drumming (without being over indulgent) and someone manipulating images on an 8ft diameter circular orb from their laptop.

It was hypnotic and engaging and kind of therapeutic as it washed over you. It was worth seeing/hearing but not something I would enthusiastically seek out.

The evening was therefore quite an eclectic mix and it wasn’t clear if this was a curated effort or just a random coming together of various talents.

An aspect that I really enjoyed on the evening was the DJ, Rhys Webb, who provided the music between the acts. He played a vast array of DUB music, which I haven’t heard for probably 40 years in any quantity. Sounded great on the PA in the venue and really took me back in time. It also provided a real laid back feel to the whole evening. Really enjoyable.

Overall an eclectic mix of artists and a nice feel to the whole evening. Drinking at the Village Underground is not hugely recommended as its limited to a few brands in 330ml cans at £4.80 a pop. My recommendation is therefore to embrace the atmosphere but do your drinking elsewhere if you really need to.

Meatraffle and Sleaze- Windmill,Brixton-13/02/2019

Meatrafle 3

 

I have not been to the Windmill for a while but it’s always a great, small, intimate venue. It’s still a magnet for the cool muso’s of South London and the audience was made up of the weird and the wonderful and a fair smattering of Fat white old blokes as usual.

Being a school night I didn’t stay for the headliners and left with the place literally heaving with bodies.

First band on stage were “Sleaze”, whose lead singer is from Camberwell and they are certainly clearly part of the current South London Scene. I have not seen them before. The front man has the necessary charisma to give them a strong visual focus, with a resemblance to Eugene from “Gogol Bordello”. The band look suitably non-fashion types giving them the necessary kudos to be viewed as serious musicians.

From my research this might be about the fifth or sixth incarnation of the band due to line up changes and some of the songs have been a few years in the making. I made out a couple of songs that are also on YouTube such as “Rapunzel” and “Push Tuck” and another song which was about not being a monster which I hope was ironic.

In the live setting they have elements of “Phobophobes “about them, probably due to the synth meanderings and a slight nod to psychedelia in a “Doors” stylie. They have also been mentioned in the same sentence with “Talking Heads” but not sure I get that. They were competent and confident and as is the way at the Windmill they tend to be quite democratic by rotating billing so my understanding is that “Sleaze” are a recurrent feature of the “Windmill” line up.

From my perspective I would certainly 100% seek them out again.

Next on stage were “Meatraffle” a perennial favourite. I was close to the front and had a good viewing spot. They played a few new songs, mixed in with some old favourites. ‘The Horseshoe” always get a strong reaction and there was also “I am not a bird” (sung by Zsa Zsa Sapien) and “Love Hz”. A number of tracks are punctuated by the  horn section, which is rare in a band of this type .Their sound is moving in a more melodic direction I would say in the live setting. The first album is very eclectic and could be considered by some as a difficult listen. But having said that they have stuck to their musical principles which is great for us music snobs, who need our guilty pleasures and don’t want our favourites to enter the alternative mainstream.

One of the good things about the “Windmill” is it seems to me to be very safe space. When there by myself I invariably getting chatting and people are generally friendly. If someone bumps you by mistake they are usually extremely apologetic. It contrasts strongly with larger venues where there is often an increasingly drunk and loutish element in attendance. Perhaps that’s my age talking but no one really wants to be bothered by aggressive drunks.

Long live the Windmill!